Rich in nutrients, milk is one of the best choices to complement a child’s diet and promote healthy growth and development.
When we talk about milk, various types come to mind: fresh milk, full-cream milk, UHT milk and flavoured milk.
A child can consume these milk variants as they all contain the needed nutrients.
It should however be emphasised that low-fat milk and skim-med milk are not recommended for children.
This is as removing fat from milk also removes some important nutrients such as fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
Parents can also consider giving their toddlers or pre-school children milk formulated for kids.
Formulated milk powder for children (FMPC) is available for children of different ages and is fortified with various nutrients.
Today, both parents in many families take up full-time jobs to make ends meet.
Thus, they may be too busy or do not have the opportunity to provide a balanced diet for their kids.
These growing children are left to the care of their grandparents, nannies or daycare centres.
These caregivers may overlook the nutritional requirements of the children or give in to their unhealthy requests.
Because of this, kids may develop poor dietary habits by frequently having a high intake of sugar, salt, fat and oil, or insufficient fruits and vegetables.
Picky eaters may face even more severe nutritional consequences if parents fail to pay attention to their diet while they are still young.
Under such circumstances, FMPC can be recommended as part of the child’s daily diet, in order to help fill the nutrient gaps that arise from a poor diet.
FMPC, previously referred to as “growing-up formula”, is made based on the nutritional requirements (nutritionists call these recommended nutrient intake or RNI) for growing children aged one to nine.
These products are also fortified with various nutrients and other food components to enhance their nutritional value.
The Food Regulations 1985 has stipulated that every FMPC product follow a standard in terms of quality and nutrient content in order to meet the nutritional needs of growing children.
It must contain a specified concentration of fat and protein, a minimum amount of energy, and a number of vitamins and minerals.
Thus, FMPC is a good source of various essential nutrients that are typically present in milk, such as protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and several vitamins like D, A, B12 and B2.
To further enhance its nutritional value, it may contain increased concentrations of certain nutrients, as well as have added nutrients and other food components that are not usually found in milk in significant amounts.
Here are some examples:
- Vitamin D – helps boost calcium absorption and promotes bone growth.
- Vitamin A – essential for vision, healthy skin and the immune system.
- Iron – prevents anaemia and is an important component of various enzyme systems
- Zinc – essential for growth and the immune system
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – important for brain, eye and nerve tissue development
- Prebiotics (e.g. galacto-oligosaccharide or GOS, fructo-oligosaccharide or FOS) – promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut and helps digestion
Choosing the right product
FMPC is meant as a supplement to the daily diet of a growing child, and not to replace their regular meals.
It is recommended to use this milk to provide up to one-third of the child’s recommended daily nutrient needs.
But remember, a balanced and varied diet is still a priority. Milk, regardless of type, should not be the sole source of nutrients.
When choosing a FMPC product, do consider your child’s age.
The FMPC available in the market have slightly different nutrient compositions based on certain age categories.
It would be wise to select one appropriate for your child’s age.
Also, do check the label/nutrition information panel of the product.
Don’t be confused with the complicated terms or ingredients on the label. Do your research and find out what they mean.
Certain claims may be doubtful, and sometimes, are just marketing terms.
And do choose products with less or no added sugar.
You can confirm this by checking the ingredient list.
Note that sugar may be listed under different names such as sucrose, dextrose, glucose, fructose, etc.
You can also compare the sugar content in different products. Flavoured milk generally has higher sugar content.
With almost all essential nutrients found in milk, it is an important part of a child’s diet.
Choose suitable milk products for your kids depending on their needs and taste preferences, as well as your financial means.
Encourage your children to drink milk to meet the recommended daily intake of two to three servings, in addition to their regular balanced meals for healthy growth and development.
Dr Tee E Siong is a nutritionist and Nutrition Society of Malaysia president. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email email@example.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.